Spread out over a territory from the islands of San Blas in Panama to the Isthmus of Darien in Colombia, the indigenous Kuna ethnic group have a unique artisanal skill – the mola – now displayed in the largest museums in the world for its beauty and craftmanship. The “bird feathers” or mola in the Dulegaya

language, is a mosaic of colorful, ornamental cloths sewn together, inspired by body paintings originally worn only by women. The arrival of the Spanish and clothing changed their tradition, and the then ephemeral body paintings became physical textile creations.

In the Kuna society, women are the keepers of traditions, and the only ones who can sew and wear the blouses and tunics in mola. The patterns represent either mythical plants and animals, or the tribe’s daily activities. Tejiolos (mola weavers) can spend up to six months on one piece, which shows the value of these works of art.

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